Regions of Identity: The Construction of America in Women's Fiction, 1885-1914

By Kate McCullough | Go to book overview

4
María Amparo Ruiz de Burton's Geographies of Race, Regions of Religion

. . . by the time the little girl is twenty, she will be very rich, and people wouldn't call her Indian or nigger even if she were, which she is not . . . she will be very beautiful, as that black skin will certainly wear off.

--Dr. Norval, Who Would Have Thought It?

The majority of my best friends are Americans. Instead of hate, I feel a great attraction toward the American people. Their sentiments, their ways of thinking suit me.

--Don Mariano Alamar, The Squatter and the Don


Land, Race, and the Californios

Across the continent from Hopkins but no less imbricated in American racial discourse, Californio María Amparo Ruiz de Burton (and her fiction) might be said to be located on the faultlines of American imperialism. As a daughter of the land-owning ruler class in Mexican Alta California, Ruiz de Burton ( 1835-95) lived through the U.S. conquest of California in 1848 and the subsequent disenfranchisement of the Californios, who lost most of their land, power, and cultural capital as Anglo America rewrote the "Dons" into the role of "greasers." A victim of imperialist rescripting of both transnational relations and United States national borders, Ruiz de Burton thus had personal experience of American colonial expansion and the workings of Manifest Destiny, both of which she would explore in her fiction. Her two historical romances, Who Would Have Thought It? ( 1872) and The Squatter and the Don ( 1885), interrogate the meaning of American through a double-pronged cultural intervention aimed, first, at critiquing the historical record's account of the Californio/Mexican relationship to the United States and, second, at recasting such a relationship for the future. Such a recasting, beginning with a critique of the U.S. policies of Manifest Destiny and capitalist expansion, refigures the Californios as citizens within the cultural imaginary

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